When the -19 pandemic first started, automakers like Ford quickly shifted production focus from cars to masks and ventilators. These businesses rely on assembly-line workers to make the switch. Since robots are limited to their daily activities, it is difficult for them to make this transition. If the ’s could change depending on the task, it could theoretically up almost anything. These clamps may be , picking up objects without changing their shape, like pliers on a forklift, to keep costs down. A team at the of Washington has developed a new tool to design a 3D passive gripper and determine the most efficient way to pick up objects.

The tested the technology on 22 objects, including drill bits, tennis balls, doorstop wedges and 3D rabbits. For 20 of these objects, the designed gripper and route worked as expected. Wedges and pyramids with curved keyholes are two of them. Both forms are difficult to pick up with various grippers.

These results will be presented by the team at SIGGRAPH 2022 on August 11.

Senior author Adriana Schulz said: “We still make most of our products using assembly lines, which are great but also very strict. The pandemic has shown us that we need to have a way to easily repurpose these lines. Our idea is to These lines create custom tooling. This gives us a very simple robot that does one task with a specific gripper. Then when I change tasks, I just change the gripper.”

Historically, objects have been made to fit a specific gripper since passive grippers cannot be modified to fit what they are picking up. Co-author of the paper, Jeffrey Lipton, an assistant professor of mechanical at the University of Washington, said the pliers on a forklift are the most effective passive grippers in the world. The downside, however, is that forklift tongs are only effective on certain forms, such as pallets, “meaning anything you want to grab needs to be on the pallet”.

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If not designed correctly, the gripper may collide with objects when picking them up. The made some important insights to address this question. The point of contact of the gripper with the object is critical in order for the object to remain stable during grasping. This arrangement of points is known as a grip configuration, said the ’s lead author Milin Kodnongbua, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin. In addition, the gripper must contact the object at those designated points and those points of contact as a single solid entity to the robotic arm, Kodnongbua added.

When building the new gripper and trajectory, the team first fed the computer a 3D model of the object and its orientation in space. Once the computer finds a satisfactory match, it gives two sets of instructions — one for the trajectory of the robotic arm after it has made and attached the jig, and the other for the direction the 3D printer will make the jig.